Courts Jurisdiction to Review Annulment Cases against Arbitration

Since the enactment of Law No. 2 of 2017 on Civil and Commercial Arbitration in Qatar (the “New Arbitration Law”), an issue regarding the extent of the effectiveness of the New Arbitration Law on existing arbitration-related court cases has arisen. Whilst the New Arbitration Law clearly stipulates, in Article 4 of the Issuance Articles, that its provisions bind ‘existing arbitrations’, it does not indicate how the New Law would affect existing annulment cases, appeals and other recourse actions filed against arbitral awards issued under the preceding legislation. This issue of the applicability of the New Arbitration Law has a significant impact on the jurisdiction of Qatari courts.

The repealed arbitration provisions of the old Qatari procedural law granted jurisdiction for reviewing applications for annulment of arbitral awards to the Qatari Court of First Instance (“CFI”). However, under the New Arbitration Law, this jurisdiction is granted to a specialized circuit within the Court of Appeal, or the First Instance Circuit of the Civil and Commercial Court of the Qatar Financial Center, pursuant to the parties’ agreement.

Judges of the Qatari Court of First Instance have recently expressed different opinions regarding the question of jurisdiction in respect of annulment cases filed against arbitral awards issued before the coming into effect of the New Arbitration Law.

In Case No. 2834/2015, the claimant applied to the CFI to seek the setting aside of an arbitral award issued in August 2015. However, following the coming into effect of the New Arbitration Law in April 2017, a motion was made to the panel of judges reviewing this case to decide on its jurisdiction under the New Arbitration Law. On June 21, 2017, the panel decided that it is competent to continue to hear the case since the arbitral award in question had been issued before the New Arbitration Law came into force. Accordingly, the jurisdiction to hear the annulment case should be determined pursuant to the law in force at the time the arbitral award was rendered.

However, on July 18, 2017, a different panel of judges within the CFI adopted an opposite view in respect of the issue of jurisdiction. In Case No. 961/2017, which was filed to seek annulment of another arbitral award issued before the effectiveness of the New Arbitration Law, the said panel decided that it lacked jurisdiction to hear this case. Giving its reasons, the panel decided that the New Arbitration Law has already determined the competent court that will be tasked with the review of annulment actions, which will be within the Court of Appeal or the Qatar Financial Center Court, as mentioned above. However, this judgment was not thorough in its reasoning. The judgment has been challenged and is currently under review by the Court of Appeal.

To learn more, contact the authors:

Sarrah El-Jaili